Lori the lori: it’s okay to be a bad swimmer

Can you see the mom and dad goby who live in this yellow tube sponge? Hint: They’re in the middle tube!

Until she saw the brilliant blue light of the sun above her on the day she hatched, the only color Lori the Neon Goby knew was yellow. She had spent

But now, as she emerged from her egg sack into the dazzling blue, her eyes were overwhelmed by a flurry of bright colors.

“Wow!” Lori thought to herself in amazement.

Her eyes were by far the biggest part of her teensy tiny body, but they didn’t seem big enough to take in the fanciful rainbow of different fish outside of her tube sponge. The brilliant fish were dancing up and down in the water, nipping up little morsels of food. Some flashy fish were even flirting with each other in an eager tango.

“WATCH OUT!” Lori heard the high pitched shout from behind her as another tiny larva, but slightly bigger than her, buzzed by in a mad dash. Lori tumbled in her wake. When she looked up, she saw the damselfish baby, darting around her in circles.

“Jeez Louise!” the larva scoffed, “Either get moving or get out of the way. Some fish are trying to go somewhere…”

Lori said nothing, and noticed that she was simply drifting along with the current. She beat her little fins frantically, lurching forward only a small amount before she felt the current overpower her.

“Where am I supposed to go?!” she shouted desperately at the damselfish larva and sprinted a little farther in the other fish’s direction.

“How should I know?” she hollered back at Lori unsympathetically, “Go back home, find some food, get eaten for all I care!” with that, she zoomed away as fast as she had appeared.

Once she left, Lori began to feel exposed and helpless. She put all the effort she could to swim against the current, but still she felt herself drifting along the reef crest.

“I don’t want to get eaten!” she thought in a panic, “I’ve got to find somewhere to hide!”

Suddenly the plethora of busy fish on the reef seemed less welcoming. She realized that she would make a tasty little snack just like the other morsels the fish were picking out of the water column.

Lori looked around for shelter, her eyes wide with desperation. On the far side of the reef crest, she saw a deep blue expanse of foreboding open ocean. That seemed scary! She couldn’t imagine the big fish that would want to live in that imposing emptiness.

Lori looked down and saw a small crevice in the coral. It seemed like the perfect hiding place for a baby goby. She swam with frenzied fins to escape the busy reef. She was quickly exhausted, but luckily the little nook was close. She settled in between some grains of sand, her teensy transparent body disappearing perfectly from hungry eyes.

This is what Lori will look like when she grows up. See the pretty blue line on her nose? That’s how you can tell her species is Elacatinus lori, otherwise known as the Line Snout Goby!

Lori was soothed by the silence of her hiding spot, and she felt her wee little heart beat slowing down. She reflected on her short time on the reef crest. Why was that little damselfish so fast and strong, while Lori had to work so hard just to swim an eensy-weensy bit?

“Hey! I’m glad you made it!” Lori heard a voice as small as her own, only a few inches away from her in the sand. She turned to the friendly voice, and saw a wide eyed, scrawny larva with little fins just like hers. It was another Neon Goby baby, just like Lori! Lori was overwhelmed with relief.

“I’m so glad to see you!” She exclaimed. “I thought I was the only fish who couldn’t swim up there, everyone else was so fast!”

“Of course not!” said the welcoming larva, “You’re a Neon Goby! We Neon Gobies are slow. But when we are big enough, we swim to a new yellow tube sponge of our own. It just takes us longer than the other larvae.”

Lori was comforted by the kind Goby’s words. So she wasn’t a bad swimmer after all! Just a different kind of swimmer! She liked that thought. Lori settled into her sand grains with her new friend. One day, they would find their own sponges. But for now, Lori was happy to nibble on the plankton she could find, and get bigger so she could find a tube sponge of her own.